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Pandemic Has Many Women Holding Back on Motherhood, NYC Study Finds

HealthDay News
by Cara Murez
Updated: Sep 16th 2021

new article illustration

THURSDAY, Sept. 16, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has many women thinking twice about having more kids.

In a survey of close to 1,200 New York City women with young children, one-third of respondents who had been thinking about having another baby before the pandemic but hadn't started trying said they were no longer considering it.

For women who stopped trying to become pregnant when the pandemic began, fewer than half were certain they would continue trying once the pandemic ended, a new study shows.

"Our findings show that the initial COVID-19 outbreak appears to have made women think twice about expanding their families and, in some cases, reduce the number of children they ultimately intend to have," said lead author Linda Kahn, an assistant professor of pediatrics and population health at NYU Langone Health in New York City.

"This is yet another example of the potential long-lasting consequences of the pandemic beyond the more obvious health and economic effects," Kahn said in an NYU news release.

Researchers asked nearly 1,200 women to recall their pre-pandemic pregnancy plans and whether they still planned to go forward with them. The survey was administered from April 20 to Aug. 31, 2020.

Women who had higher stress levels and greater financial insecurity were more likely to postpone or abandon plans for another child.

Researchers suspect that child care challenges that parents experienced during the first wave of COVID-19 and lockdown may have contributed to these choices.

Early evidence had already pointed to drop in the U.S. birth rate, with 300,000 fewer births in 2020 than forecast by fertility trends. The last two months of 2020 were particularly low, dovetailing with the pandemic's start early in the year.

"These results emphasize the toll the coronavirus has taken not only on individual parents, but perhaps on fertility rates overall," said senior author Melanie Jacobson, of Division of Environmental Pediatrics at NYU Langone.

The study did not account for unplanned pregnancies.

Researchers said the findings suggest that additional financial support may be necessary to address the nation's ongoing fertility decline.

The study was published online Sept. 15 in JAMA Network Open.

The researchers plan to repeat the survey with the same women and explore the potential impact of vaccination, which wasn't available at the time of this poll.

More information

The Brookings Institution has more on fertility decline in the United States.

SOURCE: NYU Langone, news release, Sept. 15, 2021